in "Everyday Use," why does Dee want the quilts that her mother has?

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linda-allen's profile pic

linda-allen | High School Teacher | (Level 3) Senior Educator

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My reading of "Everyday Use" is a little different from that of the previous post. Yes, Dee wants to acknowledge her heritage, but at heart, she wants her mother's things for materialistic reasons. All her life, Dee has looked down on her upbringing. When her mother and the church collected the money to send her to school, she thanked her mother by writing to her that "no matter where we 'choose' to live, she will manage to come see us." She didn't offer to have them come and live with her.

Now educated and socially aware, Dee has changed her name to one that sounds more African, and she wears clothing and has adopted a lifestyle that reflects that heritage. But she has forgotten her real heritage. She doesn't want the quilts because they were lovingly stitched from old clothing that tells a story. She wants to hang them on the wall and show her friends how "hip" she is. Dee was named after grandmother and her aunt, but she ignores that heritage by calling herself Wangero. She has lost sight of what is really important. It is by using those things as they were meant to be used that she honor her true heritage.

kplhardison's profile pic

Karen P.L. Hardison | College Teacher | eNotes Employee

Posted on

Dee in "Everyday Use" wants the quilts, which her mother and sister Maggie actually still use for everyday use around the house, as a symbol of her heritage and her connectedness to her ancient ancestors. This is a point of misunderstanding between Dee and her mother because her mother defines her own connectedness to her ancestry through her memories of her mother and grandmothers, whose hands made the quilts.

Dee has become educated through a college education and has come to value a connectedness that overrides the past identifier of "slave" since the new definition of connectedness supersedes the time of slavery by reaching back to the era before her ancestors were ever held captive for and by Americans.

Dee wants the quilts to display them in her home as symbols of this greater heritage and as symbols of that which defined her ancestor's humanity before captivity dehumanized them. Neither Dee nor her mother are right or wrong since Dee's mother's sense of ancestry extends only to her valued and cherished memories.

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